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Kaepernick, Niners In Drivers Seat in NFC

Derick Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Colin Kaepernick unseated Alex Smith as the San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback and its paying dividends.

The Niners trumped the New Orleans Saints on Sunday 31-21 to expand their NFC-West lead to 2.5 games over the second-place Seattle Seahawks (6-5).

Kaepernick started his second straight game, even after Smith was cleared from a Nov. 11 concussion, and posted another impressive day.  The second-year pro threw for 231 yards on 16-of-23 passes and a touchdown in a dazzling performance that showed off his ability to scramble out of the pocket and connect with downfield receivers.  His mobility could be the very reason he’s the better choice of Smith.

Though Kaepernick did have one miscue, an interception in the waning minutes of the second quarter, it wasn’t entirely his fault.  On the play, the ball was snapped at his feet, which caused Kaepernick to take his eyes off the defense and then threw an ill-advised pass without seeing a cornerback dropping off zone coverage.  Still, the throw was the only mistake he made all game.

Kaepernick did have the fortune of playing with the No. 1 defense (points allowed) in the NFL.  The team picked Brees off twice and returned them for two touchdowns.

Did Kaepernick do enough to solidify his spot as the Niners starting quarterback for the rest of the year?

Not yet.  Kaepernick still needs to prove himself on a week to week basis in order to preserve his spot on top of the Niners depth chart.  Though, a win against a hot Saints team does earn him brownie points in the next few games.

As the season continues to shape out, the Niners are the team to beat in the NFC — besides the 9-1 Atlanta Falcons.  He possesses the pocket presence and athletic ability to escape pressure and extend plays that few quarterbacks, let alone Smith, don’t have the capability of doing.  And when he’s teamed with one of the best defenses in the league, San Francisco has no weaknesses.

It’s not to say that Smith is an incapable quarterback.  On the contrary.  He’s one of the best the game has to offer.  His 103.4 quarterback rating ranks 3rd highest in the NFL and his record under the guise of Jim Harbaugh is an astounding 19-5-1 record.

Still, Kaepernick is a slight upgrade.  He will make the Niners an instant Super Bowl contender in the wide open NFC.

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